Saturday, December 24, 2011

THE MAGNIFICANT STEELHEAD/SALMON RUN OF 2011.......THE "STEELHEAD QUEEN IS BACK"......PREDICTIONS FOR 2012....HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

( "the steelhead queen"...one and only original Shawn Murphy....she's back!)

( the Pantano" Hang time" continues to produce!)
Well it has been a truly remarkable fall steelhead run!.........a remarkable Pacific salmon run.......and some very, very large Atlantic salmon...........to a salmonid fly guy, Santa and Mother nature could not have been more giving!
 As I write this on Christmas Eve, I can't believe all the great images we shot this fall of big healthy steelhead, salmon and browns. Lake Michigan is doing very well with an amazing forage base of alewives, sculpins, smelt, gobies, bloater chubs, stickle-backs, perch.....just about any forage a salmonid could predate upon. With mild fall and early winter temperatures, the "window of opportunity" for migration just kept coming. Perfect water temps and levels and cloudy wet and overcast weather everyday....along with full moons made the steelhead runs just keep coming.
( like mother, like daughter!!!!....a legacy in the making. We always say that'momma she- wolf has eaten', when Shawn catches a steelhead! .........I literally have over 1,000 images of her with differnt steelhead.............eat your heart out April! )

The real big news was the return to her mastery!.............a.k.a "The original steelhead queen", Shawn Murphy put on a real show and clinic last weekend as she, daughter Lindsey and Dr. Johnny tore the Muskegon steelhead up and thru the roof! Shawn, I must say, she has been in a 4 year drought and slump with the chrome warriors. As director of University Of Michigan's Cardiology surgery center, she has been working her tail off and the steelhead karma was not flowing. But two weeks prior in early December- when John stold the show hitting double digit steels on the fly, Shawn watched, cheered, but deep down inside, her competitive spirit wanted revenge.....last weekend she got !.......and she kept racking up the numbers toll....batting 100% hook-up to land ratios. She hit big hens, big bucks....and on any fly imaginable!.... I was just getting the net and camera and was blown away by her supremacy.....you go girl!!!! Lindsey, her daughter also hit chrome hens and Johnny, at the end of the day in the driving snow , hit his second 18 lb + hen steelhead of the year at dusk in a pool looking right at the Gray Drake Lodge.
(John on a "roll" in 2011!)


So, Santa came early to Murphy having two 17/18 LB steels to his fall collection and an Atlantic salmon in the 25 lb range....that just don't happen my fellow brethren....just don't happen!
As for lake run browns, they are just arriving and I think Jan/Feb will be the months like two years ago. Our Muskegon browns are late spawners( into February) and when I landed a big male in the teens back around Valentine's day, it squirted milt all over me....I also see redds around then.
( Late February spawned out Lake-run from two years ago)

SO..............................................where do we go from here in 2012. I can say that I've never been more optimistic. The steelhead are in , and continue to come into the system....so Jan/Feb will provide excellent winter steelheading. Pictured here is what we thought was a nice colored-up buck steelhead- 7 lber or so taken last week that Murphy hit. But on closer inspection, it had very bright orange "cutt-bow" gill slits....and Eagle Lake rainbow!.....the spotting gives it away also.
( Big Eagle Lake Muskegon rainbow from last week....check out orange gills!)




( the Isonychia and Gray Drake populations continue to explode-2009 saw one of the most amazing emergence!! )
As for the trout fishery, the bubble at Croton has worked. After what was one -if not the worst- hottest summers on record, the Muskegon cooked like all the rivers with low flows. When it cooled down, we found big, "fat and healthy" browns.....they where eating caddis all summer and didn't have that "slinked out" summer survival look. There are more big resident browns around now because of that system....next spring when the black stone flies hatch should be amazing surface activity in April. The river has exploded with caddis like in years past, and our mayfly populations and biodiversity continues to climb..........we had thick trico hatches for the first time this summer! Our midge populations are on the decline as the caddis fill that competitive eco-niche they both share....that is good for the trout. Midges usually are a sign of eutrophic issues that are not always favorable to mayflies and caddis.
( "the meat locker"
 This past fall and winter, we had a blast swinging flies and it was one of the best of swinging times our clients and guides had.
Torch Lake was stocked with 22,000 Atlantics and there are plans for continued stockings each year to come up to 30,000......THANK YOU MI DNR!!!!!
SO.........once again I couldn't  be more thankful and appreciative for our world class trout, salmon and steelhead wonderland that makes Pure Michigan a salmonid paradise!
Hope everyone has a great Holiday season and we can't wait to make your fly fishing dreams come true in 2012!!!!!!!
Cheers and "Na Zdrowie"!
( THE HOLIDAY DISH!
 MEDITERRANEAN GRILLED ATLANTIC SALMON- MAKE A FRESH BASIL PESTO, SOAK THE SALMON FILLETS IN WHITE WINE AND LEMON SQUEEZED, LINGUINE WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER AND ARTICHOKE HEARTS, GRILL SALMON MED RARE, POUR BASIL PESTO OVER FILLET WITH MINCED ROASTED RED ONION AND CALAMATA SLICED OLIVES- FRESH FRENCH BAGUETTE AND BUTTER!!!!..........DELISH!!!1